None of us were uptight about the jump back into Ft. Benning. If we got hurt, we would still graduate on time from the course. The instructors joked that even if we died on the jump, we could wear the Ranger tab on our burial uniform. We had been so single-minded, so focused on getting through the course, that we did actually take this as a relief.
Although one guy fractured his leg and several others suffered sprains, I made it through my fifth and final jump in Ranger School (my tenth and final overall) unscathed. We were all treated as humans by the cadre in the final days of cleaning equipment and out-processing, having joined their fraternity in all but the most formal sense. That would come soon enough.
My elbow started bothering me in the last couple days, as I scrubbed and scrubbed at the equipment I had borrowed and used throughout the course. The inspections at the supply warehouse, where we had to return the gear before leaving the course, were notoriously picky, and I didn't want some administrative hang-up like that to hold up my departure.
At the graduation, I had more than a tear in my eye as received my tab. It didn't take long to shift into 'exit mode.' To avoid any hassles in returning my equipment, I agreed up front to buy anything that looked like it wouldn't pass inspection. So I had a half-full Army ruck sack to take with me as I drove off with my girlfriend, who had driven down from Virginia. We were heading back there for a romantic 2 weeks before each of us got back to work.
Having got 5 hour's sleep for each of the past 4 nights, I assured her that I was in good shape to drive the first leg of our journey. We hadn't made it 2 miles outside the gates of Ft. Benning when I awoke to find our car (with me supposedly at the helm) bumping across a grass field off the side of the highway I was meant to be on. I guess I had overestimated just how well rested I was. I ceded control to my girlfriend and promptly dropped into a deep sleep - this time in the passenger seat.
I awoke some hours later with my elbow throbbing and red. Cellulitis (a nasty skin infection common among the run-down bodies at Ranger School) had been building up over the last couple of days, and the bursal sac was infected as well. We went to some emergency room in north Georgia, where I got a prescription for some anti-biotics to set things right. It actually took nearly a month before that arm was back to normal.
We spent the next two weeks in a lovely condo on the shore of a gorgeous lake in western Virginia. The romance wasn't all I might have thought, though. All I could do was sleep and upon waking ask for the food about which I had just been dreaming. I had lost a bit more than 20 pounds in the past 9 weeks, and my body felt the need for replenishment acutely - certainly more than it felt any sex drive!
I slept better during the day than the night, as we had been forced into a rhythm of nocturnal activity in the course. I (strangely) sat outside under the stars, cleaning and adjusting my recently purchased equipment as my girlfriend slept inside. She forgave me. All in all, it took more than a month to get back into something like a normal routine and a normal mindset.
Ranger School was a terrible thing to go through but a great thing to have done. It taught me, taught us all, how far we could push ourselves. It provided a benchmark for physical hardship and discomfort that makes even my life in London seem relatively easy...
It gave me some interesting stories.
Ranger School I Ranger School II Ranger School III Ranger School IV Ranger School V